Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Creating Characters

Cast of Characters

Protagonist

Woo boy, have we picked a mountain to flatten with the subject of creating characters. Books - probably hundreds of books - have been written on this theme. Most of them move along the same lines and come as a surprise to a beginning writer.

We wanted our hero to stand out, be special, so we started by describing him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and had bulging biceps. We described his square jaw and steely eyes. We tried to go for his invincible yet vulnerable appeal. Get the picture? He was a cookie-cutter caricature character. (I couldn't resist that line.)

In an excellent blog post by Brianna da Silva, she lists 9 ways to connect with a character and none relate to icy blue eyes. Item 3 is Make The Character Likeable. She follows with some suggestions how to do that and, "... this is arguably the most important method for character identification." Read her post here.

Antagonist

We also want to make sure our readers understand who's bad and evil. Think Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians. That's usually the way we start out, writing villains with no social redeeming traits. As an antagonist, Cruella has some good things going. She's a strong adversary and that's what our hero needs. Will readers will be interested in the protagonist that only has to overcome a time-elapsed parking meter? A good antagonist will be as strong or stronger than the hero and have reasons for being the way they are.

On the nose advice for creating antagonists is on a StudioBinder Blog that looks at Batman's Joker. Drop in and see what they say.
Also, check out the Better Novel Project and see what they say about a villain.


Scene

Don't think the scene can be a character? Who's Chuck Noland's (Tom Hanks) antagonist in Cast Away? How about the weather? A storm caused his plane to crash isolating him on the island and the breakers kept him from sailing away. When he exploited a weakness in his adversary (the wind changed direction) he was able to overcome the rolling waves with the help of an improvised sail.

When Moana, Maui, and the crazy chicken are on the raft, the other character is the ocean. This time, it's friendly to the heroine.

Novels are people against people or people against nature or machinery. This post hasn't begun to scratch the surface of characterization. We haven't even mentioned the many subordinate roles for characters in your story.

Learn about them. Create them. It's fun.
And when you do, don't be surprised if he or she takes off in a direction that surprises you.

Tell us about your characters. Leave a comment.
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